Thoughts on the military and military activities of a diverse nature. Free-ranging and eclectic.

Wednesday, September 29, 2004


This is coolbert: [This blog entry contains material first heard on Paul Harvey's radio program years ago].

Here is a story from the American Revolutionary War that illustrates the ironies of life, war, and how attitudes toward military honor and behavior have changed over the centuries.

The narration of Paul Harvey goes something like this:

"A group of British snipers lay in hiding, waiting to shoot down officers of the nearby American Continental Army."

"These snipers include their commander, Captain Ferguson, a British marksman/innovator."

"The snipers see two horsemen approach at close range. These two men are obviously ranking officers of the enemy Continental Army."

"The two horsemen seem to be doing a personal terrain reconnaissance of an area that in several days will become the site of the Battle of Brandywine."

"Ferguson gives the command to NOT SHOOT!? According to Ferguson, 'The range is only fifty yards. That is TOO CLOSE! It would not be SPORTING to shoot these officers at such a close range.'"

"The two men on horseback are suddenly alerted to the presence of the British snipers. The horsemen turn and ride off at high speed."

Ferguson again gives the command to NOT SHOOT?! Again, according to Ferguson, 'These men have their backs turned to us. It would not be CHIVALROUS TO SHOOT! Anyway, these are brave men.'"

"It is only later that it is determined that one of the two Continental Army officers is none other than George Washington himself."


This according to Paul Harvey.

And is this story credible? It seems, YES! Evidently one of the two Continental Army officers in the sights of Ferguson that day was George Washington. It may be, according to description, that the second officer was Casimir Pulaski. Just one shot from Ferguson could have conceivably changed world history in a dramatic and drastic fashion [I think most historians would agree that the death of Washington at this stage of the American Revolution would have meant the disintegration of the Continental Army and place the American revolutionaries in a precarious, if not hopeless position]. Read further about the Ferguson rifle by clicking here. Read further about Ferguson by clicking here. Read further details about the story by clicking here.

However, there is more to the story.

And there are ironies here.

One irony is that four days later the Battle of Brandywine did occur, with a victory for the British. Washington was doing a personal reconnaissance of the potential battlefield in advance. As mentioned in a previous blog, this sort of behavior, the commander doing such a terrain reconnaissance, is almost always a portent of something dramatic going to happen. As it did here. The same as with Tsuji at Malaya [1941], or the Soviet commanders prior to Czechoslovakia [1968]. One shot from Ferguson and the battle would conceivably not happened.

A second irony is that Ferguson was badly wounded at the Battle of Brandywine. Wounded in the arm, and wounded in such a manner that he was no longer able to do the one thing that MEANT THE MOST TO HIM, being a marksman and a sniper.

The last and final irony is that Ferguson was later in the war killed at the Battle of King's Mountain, leading British troops into battle.

Not only did Ferguson lose his life, but by Ferguson's chivalrous and sporting behavior, the British may have lost both the war and the American colonies.

Some persons have used this incident and others to venture that Washington enjoyed a divine providential protection to his very person.

Washington was a man of great physical courage, as witnessed in 1755 during the defeat of Braddock's English army by the French and Indians. One of the few men to keep his head, Washington, twenty three years old at the time, was a tempting target for French and Indian fighters:

"I luckily escaped without a wound, though I had four bullets through my coat, and two horses shot under me." [Washington's own account in a letter to his mother]. Read the entire letter of Washington to his mother by clicking here.

After reading about the incident involving Ferguson, even a skeptic may be willed to admit there is something to this divine providence stuff].

And now you REALLY know the rest of the story!! [Thanks again to Paul Harvey}.



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